Facebook hit with first fine in Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal

Remigio Civitarese
Luglio 11, 2018

Facebook could be fined 500,000 pounds ($894,000) by Britain's privacy regulator after the social-network giant failed to prevent key user data falling into the hands of a political consultancy that helped get President Donald Trump elected.

The ICO investigation found that Facebook "contravened the law by failing to safeguard people's information" and didn't inform its users "about how their information was harvested by others".

The report also initiates the prosecution of SCL Elections Ltd, which is Cambridge Analytica's parent company, "for failing to properly deal with the ICO's Enforcement Notice".

The Facebook probe is part of a wider investigation into the use of data in political campaigns, which the ICO launched previous year, the interim results of which are out today.

"A significant finding of the ICO investigation is the conclusion that Facebook has not been sufficiently transparent to enable users to understand how and why they might be targeted by a political party or campaign", Denham wrote, according to the Post. "Trust and confidence in the integrity of our democratic processes risk being disrupted because the average voter has little idea of what is going on behind the scenes", said the information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham.

Facebook can respond to the commissioner before a final decision is made, and said it was reviewing the report and would respond soon.

More than 50 million Facebook users - including one million people in the United Kingdom - had data harvested by Cambridge Analytica without their consent.

The U.K.'s probe adopted a wide lens, focusing not only on Facebook but the ecosystem of players - totaling 172 organizations and 285 individuals - involved in the collection and sale of data about web users for political purposes.

The British agency said it is still weighing potential penalties against Kogan as well as Alexander Nix, the former chief executive of Cambridge Analytica.

In Facebook's case this would amount to around US$1.6 billion (€1.4 billion).

"We must change this fast as no-one should win elections using illegally obtained data", she said, adding: "We will now assess what can we do at the European Union level to make political advertising more transparent and our elections more secure".

Damian Collins, the chairman of the U.K. Parliament's media committee, said Wednesday that the company "should now make the results of their internal investigations known to the ICO, our committee and other relevant investigatory authorities".

It's not the first time, however, that Europe has penalized Facebook. The region's competition chief said the social media company had provided misleading information about its privacy promises during its 2014 acquisition of the messenger app WhatsApp. It's also about half of what the Spanish data protection authorities previous year extracted from to the firm for privacy failings.

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